Triathlon Magazine Canada - - LOVABLE LIDS - BY PIP TAY­LOR

NU­TRI­TION IS A key com­po­nent of both sports per­for­mance and health and most of us have a de­sire to eat “bet­ter” to meet im­prove­ments in both. This ap­petite for in­for­ma­tion and un­der­stand­ing, cou­pled with our ex­pand­ing knowl­edge in the sci­ence of nu­tri­tion, has led to a pro­lif­er­a­tion of in­for­ma­tion. In order to ex­plain the mech­a­nism be­hind the hows, whys and whats of nu­tri­tion and ath­letic per­for­mance, it is nec­es­sary to delve into the com­plex worlds of phys­i­ol­ogy, bio­chem­istry and anatomy. But it’s a shame when some key mes­sages can get lost amongst the sci­en­tific jar­gon and ter­mi­nol­ogy.

Here’s a quick guide to some of the most com­monly seen terms you might see scat­tered through nu­tri­tion ar­ti­cles or across the back of sports prod­ucts and how to ap­ply them to your own nu­tri­tion goals. When in doubt, though, speak to a qual­i­fied sports nu­tri­tion­ist.


An acro­nym for branched chain amino acids of which there are three – leucine, isoleucine and va­line. Amino acids are known as the “build­ing blocks” of pro­tein and BCAAS are also es­sen­tial amino acids, mean­ing they can­not be syn­the­sized in the body and must come from di­etary sources. Be­cause they aid in build­ing mus­cle mass and strength by stim­u­lat­ing pro­tein syn­the­sis and pre­vent mus­cle break­down, they are of­ten used in sports sup­ple­ments tar­geted at ath­letes aim­ing to “bulk up.” En­durance ath­letes may also ben­e­fit as BCAAS are thought to act as a fuel source dur­ing ex­er­cise, help main­tain mus­cle mass and strength (even when drop­ping body weight) and re­duce feel­ings of fa­tigue.


Whey Pro­tein Iso­late. Whey pro­tein is de­rived from milk pro­teins and, as a High Bi­o­log­i­cal Value (HBV) pro­tein, it is read­ily ab­sorbed, mak­ing it ideal in the post ex­er­cise re­cov­ery pe­riod. Many re­cov­ery bars and drinks are for­mu­lated with whey pro­tein. Whey is nat­u­rally rich in all three BCAAS, espe­cially the crit­i­cal leucine. There are sev­eral forms of whey pro­tein, though, and you can ex­pect to pay dif­fer­ing amounts depend­ing on that type you choose. Whey pro­tein con­cen­trate is gen­er­ally 70 to 80 per cent pro­tein by weight and will con­tain small amounts of both lac­tose and fat. Whey pro­tein iso­late is more ex­pen­sive, but is around 90 per cent pro­tein.


It might sound fright­en­ing, and not some­thing you would choose to in­gest, but this in­gre­di­ent is mak­ing a move from the health food aisle over to the sports prod­ucts. Chlorella is a sin­gle-celled type of green al­gae (like spir­ulina), con­tain­ing large amounts of chloro­phyll and has high nu­tri­tional value. It is rich in phy­tonu­tri­ents, amino acids, beta-carotene, potas­sium, phos­pho­rous, bi­otin, mag­ne­sium and B vi­ta­mins and may help as­pects of health such as im­mune func­tion and heart health and, con­se­quently for ath­letes, re­cov­ery and per­for­mance.


The stored form of glu­cose, glyco­gen is found in the liver as well as our mus­cles. When the body needs a quick boost of en­ergy, or when the body isn’t get­ting glu­cose from food, glyco­gen is bro­ken down to re­lease glu­cose into the blood­stream to be used as fuel for the cells. Mus­cu­lar glyco­gen is lim­ited and can only be used within those mus­cles – in other words, glyco­gen stored in thigh mus­cles can­not be uti­lized in the shoul­ders. Once glyco­gen re­serves are uti­lized, the body turns to fat or re­lies on the in­take of more car­bo­hy­drates.


An­other acro­nym – b-hy­droxy bmethyl­bu­tyrate (HMB) – is a by-prod­uct of leucine. You are most likely to see this on re­cov­ery sup­ple­ments or prod­ucts aimed at the body build­ing set. It is claimed that HMB builds mus­cle mass and strength by lim­it­ing mus­cle pro­tein break­down and boost re­cov­ery by re­duc­ing mus­cle sore­ness. But the claims don’t re­ally stand up, with re­search sug­gest­ing that sim­ply pay­ing at­ten­tion to qual­ity in­take of pro­tein dur­ing re­cov­ery will bet­ter as­sist with max­i­miz­ing strength train­ing gains.

Low Carb:

De­spite this term ap­pear­ing al­most ev­ery­where, there is no ac­tual def­i­ni­tion of what con­sti­tutes low carb. Pro­po­nents claim that low carb di­ets are the key to blood sugar con­trol, weight loss, re­duced in­flam­ma­tion and over­all health. Oth­ers are less con­vinced, espe­cially when it comes to ath­letes and per­for­mance. The truth is that ev­ery per­son will have their own level of carbs/fats that work best for them. Keep in mind, too, that low carb doesn’t mean just re­duc­ing cakes, cook­ies, pasta and pizza – fruits, veg­eta­bles, dairy and nuts are all highly nu­tri­tious and high car­bo­hy­drate foods.

IF (In­ter­mit­tent Fast­ing):

One of the key diet trends of late, in­ter­mit­tent fast­ing is ex­actly as it sounds. But again, there are no set times for feast­ing or fast­ing and “rules” dif­fer ac­cord­ing to who you speak to. In­ter­mit­tent fast­ing can sim­ply mean pushing break­fast back un­til late morn­ing (some­thing you may do un­wit­tingly af­ter train­ing or sim­ply rush­ing to work), while for oth­ers it may mean go­ing one, or sev­eral days, with­out any food. In­ter­mit­tent fast­ing has good sci­en­tific ground­ing and evo­lu­tion­ary cred­i­bil­ity, in terms of be­ing ben­e­fi­cial for weight loss and even health and longevity. How­ever, ath­letes in heavy train­ing need to be care­ful in how, or when, they ap­ply this and con­sider whether it is ap­pro­pri­ate given their goals.

Pip Tay­lor is a pro­fes­sional triath­lete and nu­tri­tion­ist from Australia.

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